Match Day Experience
Sheffield Football Club understand the prominent position they hold within many Sheffield communities and the impact they can have outside of ‘the game’. As such, the club has a dedicated community development programme which helps fans and local people connect, learn, and grow together. The community programme successfully applied to the Age-friendly Sheffield micro-fund in late 2021.
Sheffield Football Club’s community programme had a vision to bring men together on match day in an age-friendly, informal environment, where football is the common interest. They wanted ‘Match Day’ fans to share food and conversation, to socially engage, to feel part of a group and to make new connections.
The overall aim of the Match Day experience was to promote common understanding for those at risk of becoming isolated. Whilst it was specifically designed to speak to socially isolated men, all people were welcome. As well as providing a shared activity, it signposted available supports and gave local people something positive to look forward to. The Match Day encouraged people of all ages to become more active.
Graham, Head of Community at Sheffield Football Club and Sheffield FC Women’s Coach, has been working to connect football and social participation projects for many years. Concerned about a decline in men’s mental health, the devastating impact of the pandemic, and the subsequent grief and loss of connections we have all experienced, Graham applied to the age-friendly micro-fund to support a targeted programme specifically aimed at isolated men.
Graham sees football as a way of connecting men to each other and a means to forge new friendships and community. This was the inspiration for Match Day. In spring 2021, when the football club came up with a paid community development role for him, Graham jumped on the opportunity to progress his ideas, and was successful in his bid to the age-friendly micro-fund.
Whilst the age-friendly micro-fund has helped launch this new initiative, Graham has seen the value it has delivered to people first hand, and has big plans to grow the scheme to benefit other communities. Graham said; “Let’s grow it from fifteen participants to fifty and then to a hundred, making the SFC a real community hub where men know they can find friendship and a listening ear if they need one. When life has been tough it’s always been my community that has saved me.”
What people said:
“It’s an opportunity to get out, share interests, perhaps make new friends and improve your social life and that’s got to be good for body and mind.”
Would you like to learn more about Age-friendly Sheffield? We have been talking to people across Sheffield about what it means to be ‘age-friendly’ and how Sheffield can be a brilliant city for people to live at any age. Watch this video to get the story so far and join in the conversation through 100 Voices.